Day 72: #100HappyDays
Conic Sections at Ayala

The Conic Sections

The Conic Sections

My very soon to be sister-in-law Grace is preparing for her board exams this September. Amidst all the wedding and career hooplah I am currently subjected to, we finally found the time to sit together, share some McDo shaker fries in Ayala area after a hard day’s work and discuss about conic sections. I sorely miss one on one mentoring for board exam reviews. It’s just one way of giving back to the future engineers of this country that I will never grow tired of doing. Besides, this bridezilla needs a break, for real.

I had to refresh myself a bit while I held her reviewers containing shortcuts of formula. I think I did something right during my board exam because three or four years on, I can still remember how these conic section formulae were derived in under 30 minutes.It’s not because I am smart (though some people always insist on that). It’s more because I am strategic with my approach to learning things.

Here is the gist of today’s board exam tip: You never unlearn things when you learn them in a very deep and imaginative way.

How did I propose that Grace remember the formula for conic sections? It was just simple. I requested that she only remember the general formula and use the image of the conic section to imagine how it would look like:

Ax^2 + Bxy + Cy^2 + Dx + Ey + F = 0

where A, B, C, D, E, and F are constants.

You see, by itself, it has no meaning. But when you imagine something fun like an ice cream cone and slice it in different ways and apply math to it, it becomes interesting. For her homework, I think I asked Grace to buy Play Doh, shape it into a cone and recall the formula of the conic sections in her head as she slices the clay cone.

The reviewer will just give you a list of shortcuts to gargle until the big day. But if you do not know how these were derived, you can get mental block on the day of the exam, forget the memory work you did (like a parrot who imitates the human words to get food from its master without knowing what the words mean).

(An Important Note: Don’t derive during the exam per se. But during review, just understand where the formula came from!)

Do not be afraid to create your own shortcuts or deviate a little from what other people are doing during review. If you do better by graphing or imagining an ice cream cone sliced in various directions, do it!

And yes, nobody is too young for Play Doh. Go make your playtime productive.


A Friendship Forged by Skyflakes

(This might not instantly sound like a board exam tip, but it is. Just read through.)

Being the youngest engineer in our company, I discovered how I sorely miss having peers to mentally spar thoughts with. I had a lot of these peer-given intellectual stimulation from college days, board exam review, and my other two jobs. During my board exam review, a huge component of the success we (UP graduates) had as a team came from the very solid support that we got from each other.  One of the joys of learning is discovering things at the same time with another person who loves the industry or subject as much as you do.

You might think that I had a lot of support during review. In fact, I spent a great deal of my time crying especially during the last 3 months of it. I had numerous arguments with my mother during review season. She told me that my preparations were overkill whenever I ask her to turn the television off while I am reviewing.

My immediate family suffered a lot from my “extreme” measures of preparing for the license exam. This is one painful truth about aspiring for something. As a person preparing for board exam, you can silently expect to be ostracized by people who are not able to understand the magnitude of your board exam preparations. You will get criticized, you may be called “OA”, and even your own school might not be as supportive with your efforts especially if they think that board exams are just a giant dog and pony show.

There may be some truth in the fact that a board exam does not make an engineer in the truest sense of the word. But it still brings in a lot of advantage in your career advancement. As you advance, you can be opposed heavily even by people you expect to understand you at this phase. But you have to be determined enough to surmount those insults and just keep striving to give it your all. These adversities will prompt you to answer this question: How much do you want this? How far are you willing to let this take you?

My concept for overpreparing during review is that I wanted to trudge through life with no regrets. I don’t want to look at my score in the board exam and have a what if nagging in my head. I don’t want to give less than my best and then ask myself later: What if I studied harder? Would I have gotten a better score if I ditched my other work or lessened my Facebook time? I actually have board exam buddies who had that in their head and well, it’s not really a very peaceful afterthought though you can eventually get over it.

As far as I know, I gave that exam my best shot and I was fortunate to discover that my efforts somehow loved me back. In love or relationships, you can give everything you’ve got and still be unappreciated. But in your studies, work and board exam, you can give it your all and somehow expect a good thing coming back.

The other day, I slept at my fiancé’s house and I experienced the other side of the fence, so to speak. My SO’s sister is preparing for her design defense and juggling it with her board exam review with other fellow students. This translates to numerous overnight sessions with a lot of engineering guys and girls, that are, in a young females’ family’s point of view, very difficult to adjust to. I had those too in college and my mom hated the fact that a new person kept sleeping at our place every other night. It’s really a thing that consumes resources.

Board exam season is not the right time to deal with heavily emotional issues. Avoid all distractions if humanely possible. If people criticize you for your methods of preparing for your exam, please don’t take it personally. Remember this: only those who are able to experience the actual pressure of reviewing and getting the license with some ambition to aim a good slot or rank will be able to commiserate, understand your situation, and make allowances for you. The true test is that even when you have all these hassles and lack of support from your loved ones, you should still want to become a licensed engineer.

Having said that, it might be good to buddy up with the right people for the much-needed support. During review class, don’t sit with people who do nothing but chitchat about other things and who do not know what they want out of the exam. I mean, it’s good to have a break once in a while and I am a fairly talkative person with people that I like. But when it comes to the actual business of absorbing as much information as possible for the board exam, it is best to sit with like-minded people with the same goals as you have. You can be charitable enough to teach others what you know after you made your preparations solidly. But you cannot let toxic people eat your time and discourage you from your goals for the exam.

To balance, I have to say that it is not just about you at this phase. You also need to consider your family or loved ones who are suffering from your new schedule. In my case, I decided to move out of my house so that I can study in a quiet place and that my family can resume watching noontime shows or whatever they feel like doing at home. I also decided not to eat too much (it makes me really sleepy when I do that!) and settled on veggies, soya, and Skyflakes to avoid ulcers. I do this so that my minimal allowance from my father monthly will not be wasted. I try to preserve the monthly allowance as much as I can because I decided not to work during review and money does not come from trees.

Speaking of Skyflakes… I had a good friend during board exam that turned out to be one of my closest friends beyond board exam. His name is Homer. It was a friendship forged by Skyflakes because we can only afford to eat Skyflakes and a regular-sized container of french fries during our overnight sessions at Mcdo Morayta.

We talk almost everyday during board exam review. Until now, we find ourselves talking with each other regularly about life, about work, and about how we got here from where we were before. I cannot imagine life without one of my good friends.

Certainly, there have been many changes. We used to be wide-eyed engineer wannabes who like playing with the Crystal Eye webcam of our classmate:


He graduated cum laude and he had the pressure to live up to during the exam. People were somehow relying on him to top the exam. I had the pressure to make the most of the exam because I had a challenging schedule as a working student in college. Somewhere, our goals intersected and we used that to sharpen each other’s saw intellectually.

We are now both licensed engineers. We got what we want and more. He is now happily employed in the banking sector. I guess we are not filthy rich like most people, but we can somehow afford a good meal, like an occasional Friday night dinner:




We had buffalo wings, tempura, fried rice, and that weird froyo dessert Teriyaki Boy had been promoting in their menu listing. The dessert was not as good as we expected, but the buffalo wings are spicy and extremely rich in flavor.


Strangely, I already mentioned our top 1 engineer (Machele), my model bestfriend Jhona (top 8), and my little brother Joseph (top 9) in this blog, but I have not yet made a post about Homer, who succeeded in garnering third place in that same board exam. So I am making this board exam tip post today as a form of thanks to my good friend Homer for being with me during board exam and beyond.


As we watched the Cubao night scene from where we were seated, we talked about how things have turned out for us professionally including the numerous adversities we encountered as students and aspiring engineers.


Another unspoken but true lesson learned from preparing for the board exam is that you will know who your true friends are under the times of severe stress. If you are open and fortunate, you can also find the best people you can spend your life with as you hit those books and crunch those numbers in your PRC-approved calculator. Another engineer I know met her partner in life during review classes. The possibilities are endless, really. It’s not always about getting the best grade there is, although you can wear yourself out trying to achieve things.

So to those who are having a hard time during review and are experiencing the frictions that only the pressure of the board exam can provide, here’s one tried and tested advice:  toughen up with the insults, get working with laser-beam focus on your study plan, make friends with the good bunch for support, kill distractions immediately, and do your best.

In truth, there are no physical costs equivalent to a real friendship but they’re absolutely priceless. The relationship may or may not be perpetually sustained by expensive night outs of wine or a night out at a nice place like Teriyaki Boy. Sometimes, the best moments involve munching on Skyflakes mindlessly while juggling index cards that need memorizing with a down-to-earth person that you can be comfortably yourself with.

Homer and I may be eating and sharing more than Skyflakes at this phase of life, but I will always remember him fondly as the review buddy who linked an armpit mnemonic (private joke ito!) to presidential decrees with me as we juggled our numerous thoughts on life and on our goals. Thank you so much, Homer, and see you tomorrow. 🙂

Should I Get a Job during Board Exam Review?

I know It’s been AGES since I posted another board exam tip. It did not help that my first three posts of board exam tips got lost in the last hacking attack on Helena blog. Sorry to that guy who emailed to ask where the other three posts are; even I do not have backup copies. I hope you are still reading this blog because I was unable to email you back that time.

I will be revamping this blog very soon (as soon as my poor head comes to a decision on how to revamp it), but I can no longer ignore the emails I have been receiving from board exam reviewees who are waiting for another post. I am thankful and blessed to hear stories of people who passed their exam or find this blog useful. I am kind of hoping that beyond the board exam tips, I can still offer other valuable posts for more readers.

For this post, I am going to answer a popular question which I recently answered to this year’s batch of GE reviewees in UP in our organization. Some of the people I talk to keep their jobs; some take a leave one or two months before the actual board exam. It’s different strokes for different folks.

But I did not work at all while I was reviewing, not even to do freelance writing. I was sorely tempted, yes. But I gritted my teeth and focused on becoming an engineer.

Honestly, I cannot really tell everyone to quit their jobs because reviewing for a board exam and taking review classes cost a lot of money. And those who have families to support immediately after graduation will not be able to do this. I was only able to focus on my board exam review for nine months because my father agreed to give me a monthly allowance. I am forever grateful for that. It was good that my own father agreed that he wants me to achieve the highest possible grade I can get in the board exam and made sure I eat three square meals per day despite my unemployment.

Now, during my time, I had 4 hours per day in Review Innovations Study Center from Monday to Friday. It was from 5pm to 9pm. Basically, I had the mornings and afternoons to myself. But I used them well.

I followed a rule of three for mastery: tackle a concept three times and you will master it. The first time, you go through it during your personal review. The second time, you go through it during review classes. The third time, you go through it during refresher classes.

I was unable to study thrice for all topics covered in the board exam. I was only able to do two for some and 2.5 for the others. There were some which were easy to go over three times because I naturally liked those subjects.

But here’s the thing, even if your parents cannot support you, you can take a personal loan for at least 4 months before your board exam. Sure, it will cost you an arm and leg and this giant utang na loob to your “financer” because you will basically find a job after board exam and you might have to suffer more financially at that waiting period. But during review, that debt may psychologically push you to do better in your review. Umutang ka na rin lang, itodo mo na ang pag-aaral, diba. But it’s quite risky.

I have seen working reviewees and I was convinced that all that fatigue I witnessed from them is something I cannot handle. My schedule during review was made in such a way that I get a full 7 hours of sleep every night from January to August. A week before my board exam, I slept 8 hours per night. I ate vegetables, soya milk, and all those brain food I can get my hands on. I avoided getting sick and I only missed one day during review because of a lousy asthma attack. Even when my gold earrings got snatched in a jeepney going to Recto, I still went to class.

I humbly acknowledge that my style may no longer be feasible for some of my readers. But my advice still stands: if you can find a way or afford not to work while reviewing, do it! 😀






Tips on Simulating Your Board Exam during Review

After what seemed like 48 years of not blogging informative stuff, I finally came out of this offline workaholic cave to give this new post as part of my board exam tips series. To see previous board exam tip posts, you can click on the related posts featured after this article or go to the Sitemap above and click on the tags labelled board exam. It is already the end of the first half of the year, and God knows where my board exam subscribers are by now. I hope and pray they are fine, wherever they are, and ehem, still open to learning more tips from yours truly. In this post, I invite you to take a trip down memory lane with me when I was still pining for the much coveted and occasionally Recto-faked PRC ID.

When I was reviewing for the board exam, I was completely immersed in the task. Obsessed may even be an understatement. Even my bedroom wall was full of posted reviewers:

One would think I’d be very confident after having read, viewed, and listened to all these tools. But when exam time came, I was still a nervous wreck and I even had LBM on the first day of my board exam. It was THAT bad. But then, I will be posting about that some other time. For now, I am going to give some tips on how you can recreate the board exam experience without having to take it twice or more. You can also check out my previous board exam tips, because I won’t be repeating the same tips I have already given in my previous posts.

What is the importance of simulating the board exam? It is a simple mind over matter thing, really. We humans are creatures of habit. If you are able to condition yourself to something, you become more easily attuned to it. And in a challenging exam with time pressure, you need all the conditioning you can get. I shall not dilly dally any further because word economy is a must these busy days. I will share how I simulated my board exam, and I hope I can help you simulate yours.

I am really a person who loves books. But even if I had that inclination, there was actually a point in my life I already hated looking at these two reviewing “Bibles” of geodetic engineering:

That image of the “true size and shape of the earth” that we geodetic engineers are supposed to be known for haunted me in my dreams and in the pockets of leisure time I forced myself to have then. Even on my self-imposed zero review day Sundays, I imagined the various astronomic coordinate systems during the Mass in San Roque Cathedral because they had this dome-like detail in the ceiling that is shaped like half of a sphere. One time, while I was aboard a jeep going to my rented room near UP Campus, I saw a building that had “Parole” inscribed in it. But because of excessive reading of legal property laws, I actually read that word as “Parcel”. I had to blink twice and look at it again after a minute to see the correct spelling.

Once you get into that type of review mode, it is a little hard to get out. But it’s okay. You can go the extra mile. Because what separates the ordinary passers from the extraordinary passers are the little extras that we have been discussing so far.

First, I found it most useful when I was answering sample problems and questions using a simulated answer sheet. I don’t know how you will do this, but mine looked something like this:

What did I know then? I knew that the exam was multiple choice, and we will be tasked to mark an X or shade the real answer sheet during the real board exam. So why spend time placing answers to multiple choice questions on a notebook or on the sides of the reviewers, as most students are prone to do? I did my very best to simulate the answer sheet by photocopying and binding a set of sheets. This idea was a superb tip given by Dhax Sensei, by the way.

For one, when you use a simulated answer sheet, you will find that your books will be free of ugly markings and you can be the kind senior who can lend the future review students some old materials once you pass the board exam. The other tools for answering must also be taken into consideration. If you will be using pencil during the board exam, use pencil for shading or crossing your simulated answer sheet. I knowwww, it may be hard to part ways with that cute pen that you are used to on ordinary days. But if you will be using pencil for the exam, start loving those pencils more until you get your license, at least.

Some of you may laugh at the absurdity of these suggestions. You might say: ang OA mo naman, Helen, talagang kinarir mo yung board exam mo. But you know what? When you are already in that air conditioned room and sweating profusely as you answer those board exam questions, the last thing you need is a lack of adjustment in using the Mongol No. 2 pencil or the lack of manual dexterity to shade the correct number corresponding to the item in the questionnaire. There may be right minus wrong portions and zero erasure policies that you might want to take seriously. And imagine the horrors of already answering half of the exam, only to realize around 30 minutes before the time that you missed shading a number and all the things you shaded were wrong. Horrors! Panic! These things can happen and they have happened to many others. Do not let yourself be another casualty or unnamed statistic hiding under the PRC’s record logs. It will be hard to tell your parents, your barangay captain, and your other supporters at home that you failed the exam because of technical problems like that.

Moreover, I economized in the use of scratch papers. When I answered sample problems on my simulated answer sheet book, I was also just using the back of the simulated paper for solutions.

And it has paid me well, not to mention allowed me to give some love to the environment. But then, you will still need some yellow notebooks and yellow notepads for notes, important terms, and concepts.

Another little thing that will help you simulate the actual board exam is to abide your problem solving sessions in line with the board exam’s actual schedule or time. (thanks again, Dhax sensei) What time is your board exam? If it is from 8am to 6pm, what the heck are you doing solving Math problems until 2am? Solve it from 8am to 6pm, and you will have heaps of advantage at having conditioned yourself so well. This is a tried and tested thing that has worked for me and my review buddies, who were also topnotchers.

In Review Innovations, the center where I reviewed last year, we students had a Pre-Board Examination that simulated the exam. But it only occurred once after the review sessions and before the refresher course. I did my very best to recreate the same experience over and over again in the comforts of my home, where I had to overcome supreme distractions (there will be a separate post on eliminating distractions next time!).

In two months’ time, there will be new topnotchers and new issued PRC ID’s in our field this year. It’s really a short-lived glory. The moment of achievement I had last October 2010 was fleeting, but it gave me enough encouragement to begin this series and empower other people as they get their licenses (photo credit for next image goes to Engr. Alan Alarcon):

On my end, I am merely taking the time (whatever is left of it) to pay all the tips forward as much as I possibly can. This is my way of showing real gratitude to the individuals who helped me top the board exam last year.

And personally, I nurture a soft spot for those who had to take the board exam again, because it need not be something that you have to go through over and over again. The pressure just multiplies each time you fail and there is greater need to mindset and manage the time and resources wisely to get that license.

I am hoping that this blog reaches through those who really need the tips to redeem themselves and get that license. And yes, don’t be selfish; share those tips to your fellow review buddies using the Share buttons below. Previous board exam passers who have additional ideas regarding simulating the board exam experience during review may also feel free to comment here and in my other board exam tip posts.

It was quite a moment in Manila Hotel’s sub-presidential table during our October 2010 oath taking:

(photo credit for this image goes to Engr. Alan Alarcon)

They said I looked like Lorna Tolentino in this shot. I was actually aiming for a, uhm, younger target market, but this will do. Hahaha!

Most of the things I did during my board exam review are available here in this blog. So you already have your college degree and these techniques to help you.

Bottom line: Goals can be within reach. If I was able to do it, so can you! 😀

A useful final quote: Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal.

Much love from my PC to yours! 😉

Review Center Tips

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. 😉

I would like to apologize to the soon-to-be board exam takers who have been waiting for me to update my series of posts on board exam tips. It has been a while. I am really sorry. 🙁 Some things just… came up. Moving on to the present, I am posting here a new set of tips that will benefit those who are already preparing to enroll in review classes before their board exam. This just might aid you a little bit.

When I was reviewing for the Geodetic Engineering licensure examination, I enrolled in Review Innovations Center in Morayta:

Most of the review centers here in Manila are actually located in Morayta, so you will not have a hard time finding all of them. I leave you to find the exact location in Google Maps and I will instead focus on the tips that you may find most useful for your review.

1. Research. Go where the topnotchers of recent years went. When I say recent, I mean the last 3-5 years. Trends do change. Competition is fierce among review centers and their review styles do change and the owners of review centers either shape up or stagnate. This is what I did. R.I. is famous since schoolmates from previous batches recommended them to us. Ask the upperclassmen which review center is the best for your particular board exam.

2. If at all possible, get the topic schedule before classes begin. This is vital for your time management. I manage to get the topic schedule within the first week of our review classes and I used it as a basis for how I am going to manage my review time at home. The one advantage of enrolling in a review center is that you get to cover all the topics since they are all within the schedule.

3. Reserve early and get the best seats in the room. The best seats in a conventional classroom are illustrated in this colored grid. Red seats (first two front rows) indicate 100% retention, Pink seats come in closely with 80% and Blue seats are passable with 60%.

(I have read so many books on body language, seating psychology and whatnots that I actually forgot which book I got this from. Sorry. 🙁 )

During my review classes, I was at the center and front row. 😀 The other topnotchers were mostly on the first row, too. 😉 So do sweat the small stuff and get the best seats.

4. Socialize with your review center classmates. Synergy is power. Even Stephen Covey promotes that in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Sharing of reviewers and techniques abound when you socialize with people from other schools. There are some negatively competitive schools but just ignore them. Crab mentality is not really that conducive in such an endeavor. And yes, I have heard that some people managed to get some romantic interests at play as well.

5. Take advantage of early bird and group discounts. Some centers offer discounts when you enroll with 9 or 10 other people and done at least two months before the first day of review classes.

6. Check your foundations. Every course has a “Bible” or reference. How well do you know your course’s Bible? In my case, my foundations in some subjects were really lousy. My teachers in UP were good. But I was so lazy in some subjects in college. So I had to read our “Bible” twice from cover to cover before review classes started. That helped me get a head start. If you are a laude filled with straight A’s, you can go ahead to refining your solving speed since your foundations are already pretty strong.

7. Review and/or Refresher? Question. Some people enroll only in Review classes. Some people enroll only in the Refresher course. I enrolled on both because I like the discipline of the schedule and time. I also found long preparation to be very conducive and less stressful for me. But if you are working, strapped for cash or just wanting more time for self-review, choose the Refresher over the Review. The hidden goodies of review centers are often given during the Refresher course.

8. Topnotch Aiming tip: Do not just rely on what the review classes will be giving you. They are just supplements to what you are doing for your own personal preparations. Honestly, I think I got 40% from the RI classes and 60% from my own personal efforts. It is much nicer to come to the review class na nadaanan mo na yung topic from your personal study than have to familiarize yourself with it in the review class for the first time. If you can really go the extra mile, go through all the topics in the schedule even before the classes begin TWICE.

All my personal efforts aside, R.I. has done its job really well in preparing us. In our batch of geodetic engineering board exam takers, 10 out of the 10 topnotchers in our board exam were R.I. reviewees.

Seven out of ten were UP graduates, including yours truly, which made it also a successful year for our department then.

(We UP geodetic engineers are also hoping that UP board exam takers this year will also achieve the same or more this September 2011. But of course, I am leaving all my tips open to everyone else, regardless of school. ;-))

What else? Just one last: DON’T BE ABSENT! 😀

Good luck! More tips to come soon! 😉 Share the love!

Image credit goes to:

Casio ES 991 Calculator Techniques

Warning:  Possible readers who can appreciate this post are engineering and math majors who need calculator techniques for the board exams. Numbers and equations are involved. 😛

A few days ago, I got an email from a civil engineering student in Pangasinan. He asked me this question:

“I’ve read in your website that you are sharing tips for engineering board exam.. I’m so grateful to see people who share their knowledge and experiences to other people. I’m very interested to know some calculator techniques in solving problems in engineering mathematics like calculus using fx-991 es.. can you share some to me? thank you so much!”

Thanks so much for this emailed question! Keep the questions coming, board exam related or not, because I really accommodate what you guys want to read here next.

I already made a post on calculators as part of my series of board exam tips in this blog. But the techniques were not posted because I was too lazy at the time. LOL. I am not really much of an expert in maximizing this calculator model, but there were some tricks that I found useful.

One of the best advantages of using Casio ES 991 is the Natural Display. It looks exactly as one would write the equation on paper:

I strongly advise you to read the Casio ES 991 manual before you experiment with the techniques. I know, it’s like I am asking you to drink acid with this tip, but trust me, it works! For one, I learned from that long manual that you cannot use the derivative and integral function button in certain equations.

So many calculator users may rely too much on the results produced by the integral and derivative buttons of this calculator. But you know what? The algorithm used on the ES 991 calculator for derivatives and integrals is heavily based on a fair mathematical approximation (according to the manual!), and bound to fail in certain types of equations. Be careful. When I took the board exam last year, the only difference between me and the top 1 of our board exam was roughly around five questions. Every item counts.

Also, be consistent with the angle usage. Check if the mode of your calculator is properly set to degrees or radians. I heard of a tale of one board exam taker who was computing in degrees but her calculator was set to radians the whole time. She panicked during the exam because her answers were not found in the multiple choices given. She got to fix this minor error about 30 minutes before time was up. She still passed, because she is very intelligent, but that is truly a source of additional stress, if you ask me.

I already said something about the SHIFT + SOLVE function in the previous post on calculators, so I will not repeat them anymore.

I frequently used the CALC button, especially when I am forced to repeat an equation over and over again for different values. This is very common in long engineering problems.

For example, you need to find y for 5 values of x, and the equation is y = x + 5. I am using basic equations here just so you get the principle. For example, the given values for x are 1,15,25,30, and 16.

Manually, you will have to type in “1+5”, “15+5”, “25+5”, “30+5”, and “16+5” separately to get the 5 y values you need. That’s just too mechanical, and a complete waste of board exam time.

Using CALC, you can just use any of the variables in the calculator (A,B,C,D,X and Y are all usable for this purpose).  Just type in “X+5” and press the CALC button and the equal sign. You will be prompted by the calculator to give the X values without having to type the formula over and over again. And since you can all use A, B, C, D, X, and Y, you can get values with as much as 6 variables without having to hurt your fingers.

Just be careful not to store important constant values in A, B, C, D, X, and Y when you are using it for CALC. Chances are, the values you stored will be deleted as you use the CALC button.

There are 8 modes in Casio ES 991.


This mode is the default mode for calculations and this is where most of your computations will occur.


The complex mode is hardly used in my major, geodetic engineering. But we did have need to convert Polar to Rectangular coordinates in computing for lot data. I got this technique from Engr. Machele Felicen, who was our Top 1.

We just enter A<B + CALC

It will ask for the values of A and B (A is the r, B is the theta).

Then the answer it will produce is something like this:

1.45365444 + 3.4567i

The first term and second term are the rectangular coordinates (x,y) already.

That saves you helluva lot of time than when you use the one given by the Casio manual for converting (r, theta) into (x,y).

Mode 3 STAT

I did not get to use this much during my exam because we geodetic engineers are more inclined to geometry and calculus. But based on what I have seen so far, you can do so many things for Statistics with ES 991. And the natural display will easily show you the list of the values. It was unlike my old calculator where you have to scroll down a lot and punch a lot of buttons before you get to each n value.

Mode 4 BASE-N

BASE-N…I did not get to use it at all. LOL. Sorry.


Mode 5 was one of my favorites during the board exam. It allows you to get the values for 2 equations, 2 unknowns and 3 equations, 3 unknowns. It also will help you get the quadratic and cubic roots of an equation. They are most useful. All you have left to do during the exam is to reduce all the complex equations into any of these four forms and then you are super done with it. 😉

During our review class, there was one challenging math problem with 9 equations and three unknowns. That’s hell if you do it manually. Simplification was vital. I just reduced it to three equations and used Mode 5 and I got X, Y, and Z in less than 5 minutes. 😀


Matrix operations were pretty common, too. Too bad it can only handle 3 by 3 matrices at the most. But you can store up to three matrices and work with them without having to type the matrices over and over again.

Mode 7 TABLE

In my initial example for CALC, I used different X values which are far from each other in the number line. But what if the x values are within an interval and is equally spaced? For example, the X values are 1,2,3,4, and 5. The Table mode is ideal for values like these.

This TABLE mode will instantly prompt you to give an expression for f(X).

It will ask you where the X values will start (“Start?”) and end (“End?”). It will also ask the interval between the values (“Step?”). In the example’s case, Start is 1, End is 5 and Step is 1 unit.

For its output, the calculator will yield a table containing all the values that you need, showing both X and F(X) as you would see it tabulated on paper, thanks to natural display.

(Note: I tried using variables A, B, C, D, and Y for Table mode, but I believe it only works when you use the X variable.)

I also use the Table Mode when I have a hard time visualizing a certain function. I just choose a reasonable interval of values, plug the equation and I sketch the table of values on a scratch paper so that I have a better vision of the equation’s physical properties.



If you need dot products and dim, you can use this mode. It can hold three-dimensional data (X,Y,Z), even. I have not used it too much. I think it will be more useful for Physics classes than in Math board exams. 🙂 I leave the physicists to enlighten you on the matter.

My reader explicitly asked about Calculus techniques. For this, I believe ES 991 poses you with a tiny limitation. It will only get you derivatives and integrals for those with absolute numerical values. This means, you ought to have upper and lower limit values for the integration function. In college, this function may be a bit useless because you will need to solve calculus problems by hand if you really want to master the theorems and get a good grade in your class. Don’t do too much shortcuts in college at the expense of learning the principles. But during board exams, where there are application-focused problems likes Maxima-Minima and Related Rates, you can definitely take advantage of the derivative and integral buttons. 😉

Do use the calculator everyday, even for small things like your shopping list. It allows you to get used to the calculator buttons. This, in turn, improves your manual dexterity and speed in using the calculator. Make sure you have enough batteries. At the time of my exam, I replaced the batteries 2-3 days before the actual exam and I had a spare calculator of the same model in case my original calculator breaks down somewhere during the board exam.

It takes a lot of practice to learn shortcuts. And it saves time in getting you from point A to B during an exam.

But do make sure that you know the long methods before you play around with the shortcuts. I am totally not encouraging that you rely purely on shortcuts to pass the exam. The complete comprehension of the concepts is very, very important.

If you have other calculator tips for our dear readers, this post is open for discussion and comments.

Did you find this post useful?  You can click any of the share buttons below (Facebook, Twitter etc.). I have shared my techniques freely to you, so pay it forward and let’s help some more people get their licenses.

(You can also show me some love by subscribing via email for updates at the right side bar of this page. However, I blog about many things, so my posts are not just limited to board exam posts. This brain likes variety so much. :-P)

Kalukadidang during Board Exam Review?

It’s the month of love already. But I am still not done with the board exam tips series. I still have some stuff to share, but I lack the time to do so. Sighs. I already shared something about reverse engineering in my previous board exam tip post. Today, I decide to share some insights on whether it is a wise decision to have an active love life when you are reviewing for the board exam. Or MU’s or boylets/girlettes, for that matter.  🙂

It truly depends on the type of relationship that you have. In my case, my boyfriend at the time was completely supportive of my goals in achieving something for the board exam. But I do know of some people who went overboard. Their kalukadidangs pressured them too much in achieving something in the board exam. Kaluka indeed. hahaha.

This was counter-productive to some of my friends, who felt like they fell short of the partner’s expectations. No matter how much you achieve, whether passer or topnotcher, it will not be as joyous to achieve if you have a controlling person in your midst.

Single people actually are at an advantage when it comes to reviewing for the board exam. I think I got some innuendos from guys at least three times during my review. You actually meet a lot of people who have the same professional goals, and study sessions get more interesting when you are also inspired by somebody new.

I know of a person who got her license AND her boyfriend as long-lasting fruits of her review days. Date and review sessions went hand in hand for them, at least.

Another topnotcher decided to break up with his girlfriend months before the board exam so that he can concentrate. He topped and it paid off at least. Last I heard, he dated her again after our oath taking.  If your relationship is as stable as a moving yoyo, consider cooling off.

It’s really your call. Check if you can manage having an active love life while studying for this major exam. You might have to ask your friends and family too for feedback since you will most likely overestimate yourself in this arena.

But love life or no love life, set your priorities. I had to tell my boyfriend (who is no longer my boyfriend now) a lot of times that I can’t watch this movie with him or do stuff with him no matter how much he wants to do them with me.  Kasi I have to review, read some stuff, solve some problems and what-nots. It helped that he was a licensed engineer himself and he understood. Although there were times that he was a little upset about the setup, he knew why I was not available to hang out and do kalukadidang stuff with him.

There are some people who rant that they are not inspired enough to review because they do not have an interesting or eventful love life at the time. I can suggest that they offer up the review sessions for other forms of love, like for bringing honor to the family or for just embracing the cause of becoming a licensed professional.

In my case, there are a gazillion land disputes. We never run out of dealings on land. Boyfriends come and go, but the need for professional geodetic engineers will never run out. At least, be absorbed and passionate to what you are doing, if you cannot afford to have a human object of affection.

I have been getting good feedback on the tips I have given so far. There will be more to come, for sure. I just hope I find the time to do them all before the actual board exam for engineers on the tail part of 2011. 🙂